People sometimes swear solemn oaths; jurors swear an oath to faithfully try the defendant and give a true verdict according to the evidence. In Nazi Germany people swore the Wehrmacht Oath of Loyalty to Adolf Hitler. It was an oath of blind obedience. “I swear by God this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German empire and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath.” Hitler was the master of the German people, not the servant of the people. In the United States of America people swear the oath of allegiance to the United States when they become citizens or join the armed forces. This is not an oath of blind obedience but requires some thought, although it has often been interpreted as an oath of blind obedience. It includes a promise “that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.
Now the American Constitution is not written in stone like the Ten Commandments but is subject to change, amendment and interpretation. From 1789 until 1865 the Constitution permitted slavery – the ownership of people. It has been amended 27 times so far. The oath to defend the constitution is not an oath to defend what a politician believes to be the constitution. It is a promise to defend the true constitution, no matter what that may be.
The Constitution is a document that sets out the terms upon which the people entrust their elected leaders, their judges and their legislature to govern, interpret and enforce laws and make laws. It is a document that limits powers, rather than imposing authority.
The oath also promises defence and support of the constitution against foreign and domestic enemies. The oath then is one to uphold the constitution against tyrants, and enemies.
If a person exposes vice, folly and actions which breach the constitution by preventing justice, domestic tranquillity, or the promotion of promote the general welfare, and securing the blessings of Liberty then that person is not breaking his oath of allegiance, but rather is acting in accordance with his oath.
Politicians do not see it like that; Bradley Manning is being tried for exposing vice and folly and Edward Snowden is being pursued, with all the acumen of a school bully in the playground, for making his own exposure of matters which harm the general welfare and prevent people receiving the blessing of liberty. Governments forget that they are the servants of the people; the more powerful the nation the more likely the government of it is to act as though the people were its servants, rather than its master, and all the oaths are twisted to this end.
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